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Tagudtongan, Maguindanao: Coconut, Faith and Life

The cheap source of livelihood in Tagudtongan, Parang Maguindanao, copras.

"farmers and producers gain almost nothing from the extracted and planted resources that built the economy of this nation"

A quick visit to the white beach of  Limbayan, Bongo Island revealed to us the other coastal community that exist on the other side of the Island, known as Tagudtongan. This barangay  is another remote island community of Parang, Maguindanao.
where the port of the barangay serves as  the primary gateway to other barangays in  Bongo Island . 

The port is located strategically in a cove section of the island, safe and  protected from the harsh tides of the sea and has a with very deep anchorage for bigger marine vessels to dock in. There aren't much to do and to see in the area, as of the time of this writing, other than the vast coconut plantation as source of copra business and small scale local fishing activities.

Scenic lanscape in Tagudtongan
Our main purpose visiting the place was just to have our lunch in the uninhabited rest house  as recommended by our guide/host Barangay Kagawad Aragasi.  He informed us that the house is open to any visitors as long as they coordinate with the staff or directly communicate  to the owner of the villa which was the current vice mayor of Parang.

It seemed that we were so lucky that day to get acquainted with  Jafaar and his  friend, Sam , who arranged everything for us. It was so easy for them to organize a trip like this due to their strong  political connections and having a lot of  "friends"  in the city .

The rest house is quite large compared to the other structures standing in the island. At the second floor is a veranda with the best view of the coastal community and perhaps the best view of the sunset at the zenith of  the Moro Gulf. From where I was standing, I can see all the fleeting boats and even the detailed activities of the people down the hill.

"They" Walk in Contradiction

The general condition of the community is the epitome of traditional provincial deprivation of   social services.

Looking around, I saw people busy with the extraction of coco meat from the thick and hard coco shell, the mere soul of of copra industry, the primary source of coconut oil as ingredient to various pharmaceutical and beauty products.

It's a multi-million dollar industry that only the middle men and corporations earn abundantly leaving the poor laborers with little profit from  the hard work of the poor coconut farmers. The last time I checked, a kilo of dried copra costs an all time low of Php 20.00 leaving almost no return of investments to copra producers.

To process copra it involves planting coconut that takes years before fruiting, collection, painstaking extraction, drying and finding a buyer for the dried coco meat. I can sense the difficulty of life among the locals of Tagudtongan as my family also came from a land  where  copras are the main agricultural product . It is a blinding truth in the Philippines, that farmers and producers gain almost nothing from the extracted and planted resources that built the economy of this nation.

The community is supplied with electricity using the solar panels installed in their houses but not all were lucky  to have one. The house where we temporarily took refuge was ran by a generator and maintained by a stay-in  housekeeper. Kagawad Aragasi  requested us to stay for another night or even extend for another few days  as the house is free and food won’t be a problem with fresh catch fish can be bought from the local fishermen. As much as we wanted to dive in to the invitation to witness the grand sunset in ARMM and  discover more about the locals, our tight schedule did not permit to stay longer.

And the story goes on...

After our simple lunch with delicious local pastel and two liters of cold soda, Kagawad Aragasi displayed and demonstrated to us a sort of M16 gun, which according to him very normal to politicians to  carry  in public for politicians.

I never fired a gun before and I hope never at all. Holding an M16 riffle cracked out the nervousness  in me. But for the sake of documentation I posed for a picture as a proof that at least I handled an M16 in the entire course of my life (the first and would be the last time, I guess).

Don't get me wrong , holding an M16 doesn't  signify that I support any means of violence to achieve peace in Cotabato City or in any part of  ARMM. I always believed that peace in the controversial region can be achieved through diplomatic ways.

Lauren, with all her might, tried to chop a coconut.
Before we parted the house, a barangay councilor offered fresh coconut for all of us. Expert in extracting the meat from the coco shell, they could open the coconut in just a matter of seconds. I feasted on the fresh juice and the very soft  "mala-uhog"  coconut meat , yummy!

Curious on how to extract the meat, dear friend Lauren even tried to open one. But with no success, a  quirky single pose at the camera holding a bolo against the coconut   at least compensate  her  effort to open a coconut.  We gave our sincerest thanks to our guide and host as the trip was a success, educational and refreshing.

Let's face the mirror...

Stepping on the shore of Taguntongan, Bongo Island in Maguindanao, a 100% remote Muslim community , was another revealing visit as it  enlightens me and everyone who participated in this short  trip that all people regardless of race, color and religion, hope only  to live peacefully in the land handed to them by their ancestors. Our  mere presence in the land equated with chaos and terrorism attests that Muslims and Christians and other ethnicity can live, interact and work hand in hand to attain the PEACE that had been longed by all   Mindanaons , and the entire nation.

Muslim friends from Cotabato City, the colored background was the rest house where we had our lunch.

(PS. Our sincerest thanks to our  Muslim brothers from Cotabato City, Abdul Jafaar, Jun Sali, Sam Sali, DJ Manoy , Kagawad Aragasi. They were the one who made this trip possible and gave us a grand tour in their misunderstood “turf") 


  1. i was actually surfing bloggers from mindanao. i am happy to find your blog. followedyou. back reading all your post. i'd love to hear more about mindanao.

  2. i was actually surfing bloggers from mindanao. i am happy to find your blog. followedyou. back reading all your post. i'd love to hear more about mindanao.

  3. am so glad and appreciate your visit to my humble page . People like you inspired me more to be better in sharing , keeping me hit the road of Mindanao to discover and unleash the hidden stories of the people of the land of promise :)

  4. Coconut, I miss it . Beautiful place but the people seems to be in poverty .i hope that the government help them financially for their crop.

  5. I would like to concentrate on the part of your post on coconuts. Hehe! Truly, coconut is a tree of life. From roots to the tip of its leaves, it can become a resouce for a livelihood.

  6. kawawa naman nag mga yan kaunti lang ang kiniti nila dyan pero yumayaman nag bumibili ng mga paninda nila.

  7. Maria Gemma Defeo-HilotinNovember 15, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    I miss eating buko!!! I miss our country! .. and I love your photos!:)

  8. Great photos. Our country is a paradise. Peace will be attained sooner. This is one belief of mine I know will happen

  9. Excellent photos. Parang documentary, you have described with sincerity how daily life revolves in this remote island community. Yes Muslims and Christians can go hand-in-hand in achieving one dream, Peace in Mindanao.

  10. Ganda ng content. true, there are other places in this country that really needs attention.

  11. Ang ganda naman ng mga photos mo. I've never heard of Tagudtongan yet until I read this post :) Medyo malayo na rin kasi ang place sa Davao, sayang.

  12. I hope this post can help how others think about our Muslim brothers.

  13. I love the pictures and I love the content. Ang dami kong nalaman.

  14. While it's probably never going to be a short-term fix, we can help out these underprivileged people by buying products direct from them and featuring them in a positive light in articles like this :) Thanks for sharing!

  15. A 100% in agreement to this one. I'm one of the those people who came from a farmer family basically in rice and coconut industry. My father is farmer and I'm proud of him, even though he is a farmer - He strive hard to let us 10 kids to graduate in college and make our own career. From what I experience in coconut farming - the benefit is in pyramidal state and sadly it does exist even now. The farmers who strive hard to make a living were paid the lowest cost in raw coconut while multinational industries sells tyhe finish products at the highest cost possible for their customers.

  16. The m16 pose is the bomb. Nice to see you handled it with care with trigger finger outside the trigger itself. About the coconut industry, it must be taken into account more by the government.

  17. The poverty that swept that province is the fault of the corrupt officials in that area, buying arms instead funding social services

  18. It was my first time to read a post like this. I am amazed about your angle of story. I hope that corruption in our country will stop na

  19. thank you for visiting.. we all do wish to have a better country and a better governance. and hope soon the true marginalized community will be given enough attention by our government and hope the ordinary citizen would do their part as well.

  20. thank you for taking a moment to visit my posts . am sure you will love to visit this under rated island in the south ... :D